Asian Girls and the Guys Who Fetishize Them

February 12, 2009

That Asian Fetish Myth thing is making news again -- though this time no one's debunking it.

Jaemin Kim has a piece up examining the dangerous implications of the "Asian Fetish," in which she shrewdly links media representations of interracial dating with sexual violence against Asian women. It's a must-read if you hate seeing Asian women portrayed as the exclusive purview of middle-aged, balding white men and/or hentai-watching computer geeks.

The Onion also recently published a piece on this topic, albeit with a much simpler objective: a lampoon of the fetishizers themselves. In an article titled "Asian Teen Has Sweaty Middle-Aged Man Fetish," the Onion attempts to put a satirical spin on the Asian Fetish Myth. But, while the premise has potential (even if the target is an easy one), the execution is less than consummate.

Here's an excerpt:

At first glance, 17-year-old Misaki Nakajima seems like any other shy and submissive Japanese schoolgirl. She loves shopping, text messaging, and the color pink. But beneath her wholesome exterior lies a wicked secret: Misaki Nakajima is consumed by sexual fantasies involving sweaty, middle-aged American men.

"I can't explain it," said Nakajima, dressed in a pleated miniskirt and pure white knee socks. "There's just something about American men who are at least twice my age and nearly three times my body weight that totally drives me wild."

Sure, we get the punchline -- how clever to point out the absurdity of "balding Midwesterners who carry most of their weight in their stomach" entertaining some strange sense of entitlement over women so obviously out of their league.

But for a parody of pervy old white men, we sure don't get much of the pervy old white men. Instead, we get a pretty intense collection of hyper-sexual descriptions of 17-year-old Misaki’s miniskirt and "alabaster" skin. In fact, after a few paragraphs expounding on the bizarre sexual fantasies of this "virgin nymph," the article starts to read less like a parody and more like the beginning of Asian-fetish erotica written specifically for "balding Midwesterners who carry most of their weight in their stomach."

Maybe the Onion writers just can't keep track of their own punchlines anymore -- or maybe this fetishized image of the submissive Asian woman is so pervasive that even satire intended to criticize it becomes, itself, a source of the objectification.

I can just imagine what Jaemin would say about this, given the way her article takes other journalists to task for their borderline racist (and undeniably reductive) representations of Asian women and the men who date them.



Catherine A Traywick

Managing Editor

Catherine is the managing editor at Hyphen. Her work has appeared in TIME, the Bay Citizen, Ms. magazine, he Huffington Post, as well as broadcasted on CBS radio. She is a master's student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.



The irony of the piece is in reversing the completely one-sided attraction that men often have to demonstrate how risible it really is. I felt their descriptors of the teen were stereotypically lecherous and never lapsed into the unselfconscious exploitation that you're accusing them of.
I have to agree with Eurasian.The fetish-like descriptions in the Onion article were to point out the fetish stereotypes and simultaneously mock them, not glorify them.
Racialious had a piece about Kim's article. The Onion parody, this seems to be an increasing trend in the American media with humor that presents itself as supposedly mocking racism (or sexism) through irony or satire.At times, however, it seems that this kind of humor revels in the very racism/sexism that is purports to mock. It's almost like irony or satire is being used as a cover to hide behind, while people secretly enjoy these same old tired stereotypes.Some people have called this type of humor (White) Hipster Racism.Stuff white people do: think that racism is ok if you’re being ironic about it
Catherine, I think you are reading too much into the Onion article. I thought it was funny and well-written.I think the sexualised description of the Japanese schoolgirl serves two purposes. It uses the language of Asian-fetish erotica in order to subvert and mock Asian-fetish erotica; this is a common comic device. And by playing up the attractiveness of the girl, it emphasises how out-of-their-league the creepy old white men really are.That's my take, anyway.
I saw that Onion article, but I didn't see it as teasing middle aged bald White males. It is poking fun at certain Asian women who have White worship.
Hi Alvin,You might be interested in reading my follow-up to this article, titled 'Debunking the White Man Fetish":